California Penal Code 503 P.C.

Embezzlement typically concerns the theft or misappropriation of another’s money or property by a person in a position of trust or responsibility over those assets.

What is an Embezzlement Charge?

Under California Penal Code 503 P.C., you can be prosecuted for Embezzlement if you allegedly violated a position of trust in charge of another’s property or funds, and you converted that property or those funds for you own benefit with the intent to permanently deprive the lawful owner thereof.

Embezzlement is a “wobbler” offense, meaning that the prosecutor can charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the monetary amount at issue (over $950.00 in value will typically result in a felony charge), the facts of the case, and your criminal record.

What are Examples of Embezzlement?

Examples of situations involving Embezzlement include the following:

  • Without your boss’s knowledge, you repeatedly took the company limousine out on the town at night.
  • You developed a special malware program that siphoned off fractions of a penny on hundreds of thousands of transactions facilitated by your father’s business.
  • You helped raise large sums of money for a political campaign but used some of the funds to buy expensive artwork for your new home.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove for an Embezzlement Charge?

To prove that you are guilty of Embezzlement under California Penal Code 503 P.C., the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements (as required by the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 1806):

  • An owner entrusted his or her property to you;
  • The owner did so because he or she trusted you;
  • You fraudulently converted that property for your own benefit; and
  • When you converted the property, you intended to deprive the owner of its use.

What Happens If I am Convicted of Embezzlement?

If the value of the embezzled funds or property is worth $950.00 or less, then you will be charged with a misdemeanor and face the same penalties as Petty Theft. But if it’s worth more than $950.00, then Embezzlement is a “wobbler” offense, meaning that the prosecutor can charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case and your criminal record, and you will face the same penalties as Grand Theft.

If you are convicted of Embezzlement under California Penal Code 503 P.C., you face the following punishment (excluding any sentencing enhancements):

  • Sixteen months, two years, or three years in prison (if you are convicted of a felony); or
  • One year in county jail (if you are convicted of misdemeanor grand theft Embezzlement) or six months in county jail (misdemeanor petty theft Embezzlement); and
  • A maximum fine of $10,000 (felony) or $1,000 (misdemeanor);
  • Probation of three or five years (felony or misdemeanor);
  • Victim restitution (if applicable);
  • Possible community service (felony or misdemeanor); and
  • Possible loss of ability to obtain or maintain a professional license, loss of employment or educational opportunities, or adverse immigration consequences (if applicable).

What are My Possible Defenses to an Embezzlement Charge?

Embezzlement cases can often be resolved during the investigation stage even before criminal charges are actually filed. Specifically, a highly experienced and skilled Los Angeles County Embezzlement attorney like Ninaz Saffari might be able to convince the investigating detective to not refer the case to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, or to convince the D.A.’s Office not to file charges if the case has already been referred. These are called Pre-Files, which Ms. Saffari has a great deal of experience in successfully negotiating. See her Case Results.

If you are charged with Embezzlement, Ms. Saffari will first conduct a thorough investigation, often with the help of her private investigator, to ascertain all relevant facts. Again, if possible, she will attempt to get the charges dismissed either before or shortly after they are filed. If she takes the case to trial, she will often use an expert witness who will argue that the alleged harm never occurred, did not occur to the degree claimed, occurred but was the result of an accident or unintentional conduct, or that the District Attorney has otherwise failed to provide enough evidence to meet the high threshold to prove Embezzlement.

The following are the possible defenses to an Embezzlement charge:

  • “Claim of right”. You reasonably believed that the property or funds belonged to you, or they did in fact belong to you.
  • Brief removal. You only removed the property or funds for a short period of time.
  • Accident or mistake. You accidentally or mistakenly removed the property or funds.
  • Lack of specific intent. At the time of the incident, you did not have the specific intent to deprive the owner of the property.
  • Consent. The owner gave you lawful consent (i.e., without being deceived into doing so) to remove the property or funds.
  • Lack of entrustment. You were never actually entrusted with the property or funds. Alternatively, the owner never actually trusted you to care or maintain the property or funds.
  • Lack of conversion. You never actually converted the property or fund for your own personal benefit.
  • Amount at issue. The allegedly embezzled property or funds were worth less than $950.00 (for purposes of determining whether a felony charge was justified).
  • False accusations. The alleged victim or supposed eyewitness may have ulterior motives for lying to the police. Some of the most common motives include child custody disputes and romantic strife with current or former lovers.
  • Misidentification by the accuser or witness. For example, your act was misunderstood or misinterpreted, or you were not the actual person who committed the alleged ADW. Eyewitness identification can be affected by many different factors, including bad lighting, witness stress, cross-racial identification, suggestions by the police, etc.
  • Constitutional defenses. These include lack of probable cause, police misconduct (coerced confession, planted evidence, falsified police report, etc.), Miranda violations (suppressing any statements you made to the police if your Miranda rights were violated), and suppression of evidence that was seized without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a valid warrant (in violation of the Fourth Amendment).
  • Insufficient evidence. The prosecutor failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of one or more charges.
  • The accuser and/or witnesses are not credible. In other words, for any host of reasons, the jury simple does not believe what the accuser and/or witnesses are claiming about your criminal culpability.

What Kind of Embezzlement Cases Has Ninaz Saffari Defended?

Since 2005, Ninaz Saffari has successfully represented many clients against Embezzlement charges, including both as felonies and misdemeanors.


If you or a loved one are currently being investigated or prosecuted for this crime, it is critical that you immediately hire a highly skilled, aggressive and experienced Los Angeles County Embezzlement criminal defense attorney like Ninaz Saffari. Contact the Saffari Law Firm, P.C. now for a free telephone consultation. If Ms. Saffari believes she can help you, she will immediately schedule a free in-person meeting or, if you are in custody, she will visit you in jail (again, for free and with no obligation to hire her).


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